GreenLaw Celebrates Thompson’s Ten Years of Leadership

In November 1999, the Board of Directors of the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest (now GreenLaw) hired a young attorney named Justine Thompson as its executive director.  The organization moved from Athens to Atlanta and reaffirmed its mission to direct legal representation as part of this fresh start. “We met Justine and immediately felt that her enthusiasm and intelligence were just what we needed,” said John Sweet, former board chair. 

Current and former board and staff members gathered on November 20 to celebrate Thompson’s ten years at the helm of the organization, which changed its name to GreenLaw to reflect the environmental focus of its work. During her tenure, Thompson has expanded the scope of GreenLaw’s work beyond traditional water cases by developing the only legal program in Georgia dedicated to environmental justice. She also started the Georgia Clean Air Program which focuses on reducing emissions from smokestacks across the state. She is now the senior female public interest environmental attorney in the state of Georgia. 

Thompson has been the lead attorney in most of GreenLaw’s notable cases, for example, defeating a proposed thousand-acre landfill in one of Georgia’s poorest counties, requiring a polluter to pay a $1M fine for illegally dumping cyanide into a river, and requiring a power company to spend over $50 M to prevent excessively heated discharges from a coal-fired plant that caused massive fish kills in Lake Sinclair. 

Chandra Brown, Ogeechee Canoochee Riverkeeper, speaks for many GreenLaw clients who appreciate Justine’s ten years of service. “Tons of pollutants have been kept out of the Ogeechee River thanks to Justine.  From stopping mega landfills in the headwaters to preventing more mercury pollution from coal plants, Justine’s expertise in air, land, and water law combined with her passion for protecting our environment make her a formidable force.  We are lucky to have her on our side,” Brown commented.

Thompson has significant experience in addressing the problems of pollution from coal-fired power plants. With the GreenLaw legal team, Thompson has represented Sierra Club and Friends of the Chattahoochee in a legal challenge to an air pollution permit issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (of the Department of Natural Resources) to LS Power to build a coal-fired power plant in Early County. She is currently working on another legal challenge to a proposed coal-fired plant in Washington County. 

Prior to taking leadership of GreenLaw, Thompson worked as an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center and as an associate for the Atlanta law firm, Chorey, Taylor and Feil. She served as law clerk for United States District Court Judge Robert L. Echols in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1995, she received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree with honors from Duke University School of Law where she served on the editorial board of the Duke Law Journal. Prior to attending law school, Thompson worked in the non-profit sector for the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the California Public Interest Research Group. She received an economics degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988.

Congratulations to Justine!